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Artist health care topic of state meeting in Lynn

LYNN – Artists often live on the fringe, foregoing expensive health care insurance in trade for the freedom of being able to pursue their passions, yet still pay the rent.The new Massachusetts HealthCare Reform Law, signed by former Gov. Mitt Romney in April 2006, could alter the need for such sacrifice. It mandates that every Massachusetts resident over age 18 have health insurance by Dec. 31, 2007, although that deadline is currently in flex.For places like Lynn, where the arts community and number of small creative businesses have grown markedly over the past several years, this legislation could have far-reaching impact.On Wednesday, at the LynnArts gallery at 25 Exchange St. in Central Square, state officials will conduct a free informational workshop aimed at explaining how the law will affect artists and non-profit cultural organizations.The Lynn workshop, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., is the sixth in a series promoted by state Sen. Brian Joyce, a Milton Democrat, and state Rep. Eric Turkington, a Falmouth Democrat, co-chairmen of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.”The Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law is landmark legislation that is serving as a national model,” said Joyce. “We’ve organized these workshops because our committee wants to make sure every member of the cultural community understands both the benefits and responsibilities of the new law.”Obtaining health care is often difficult for struggling artists and the self-employed, said Turkington, adding, “The overall goal is to meet with people in their communities so that everyone is aware of what the best avenue for accessing health care is for them. We recommend this workshop for individual artists, self-employed people, and representatives of non-profit cultural organizations.”The workshops are sponsored by the joint committee along with the Arts Health Care Coalition, comprised of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities (MAASH), the Artist Foundation and ArtistLink.Last year, the joint committee held hearings across the commonwealth to assess the state of state of arts, culture, and tourism in different regions.”With these workshops we hope to create an opportunity to educate the arts community as well as to learn how this law affects people,” Turkington said.ArtistLink Director Jason Schupbach explained that artists, arts employers, arts organizations and small creative businesses fit into the new healthcare law in different ways. “Every situation is different, but we’ve talked to the state agencies involved and trained people there to handle applications from artists,” he said. “The new system is complex in terms of the benefits provided and who is eligible, and many parts of it are still being worked out. It can provide coverage not just for struggling artists but also for architects, designers and others in the arts. Those people are typically employed by several employers, which means several W-2 forms. In some cases, art might not even be their primary source of income.”State agency health care experts and representatives from various advocacy groups will staff the workshops and provide advice on whom to contact for specific insurance coverage information and eligibility guidelines.”There are lots of new options from the state. Some might help subsidize health insurance, or even show artists how to get it completely free,” said Schupbach. “We’ve got the key contacts at the agencies, the names and numbers of the right people to call. That’s why it’s important for artists and others to attend the workshops.”Artists who ignore the new legislation could find themselves hard-pressed to find health care coverage once the deadline elapses.”There are penalties if you don’t find health insurance,” said Schupbach. “The penalties change, but the main one is that you lose your personal exemption on your state taxes the first year, and then fees go into effect the second year. So

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